I recently asked myself, “Would someone looking at my social media be surprised to learn that I support the Black Lives Matter movement? Would they be surprised, after scrolling through my feed, that I read the Bible and don’t see anything in there about sex before marriage or abortions or same sex marriages?”
I’ve been wondering how much of who I am and what I believe needs to be represented on my social media. I’ve been wondering how much of what I post on social media is really just proof, to myself and others, of my good-person-ness. Because I think we can all acknowledge that the majority of allyship takes place offline. Right? At least for those of us who don’t make our living online.
Close to a year ago a friend of mine encouraged me to “do what only you can do” and let others do the rest. Refinery29 shared a tweet on their Instagram yesterday saying something similar. Frederick Joseph (@FredTJoseph) said:
“There are many roles that need to be played in a revolution, and yours doesn’t have to look like anyone else’s. But not finding a role at all is unacceptable.”
What is my role? What is it that only I can do? What is the offline allyship learning and deconstructing I need to do? What is the online sharing and celebrating and pointing to that I need to do?
I was “pro-life” until I read a book called My Notorious Life by Kate Manning which is based on the true story of a female physician who practiced in New York City in the early 1900s. She sold and gave away birth control *gasp* and performed abortions *scandal.*
I believed being queer is a sinful choice until someone close to me came out and I realized that nobody would actually choose to speak out loud that who they really are goes against what they’ve been taught is good and acceptable and holy.
I believed police officers were good and justice was upheld in my country until I read about Eric Gardner and Trayvon Martin. I believed that all lives matter, duh, until it was very obvious that they didn’t, not really.
I believed that only dumb-dumbs got knocked up at 16 years old until I met many hardworking, amazing, caring, smart, capable women who became mothers as teenagers.
I believed everyone was responsible for their own choices and people living in poverty made some bad ones (choices, that is), until I met people who were different than me and realized how drastically the system is stacked against so many.
I don’t like being sad. I avoid negative feelings. I stuff them down or process them quickly so I can move on to being happy again. I distract myself with TV shows and podcasts and food and daydreams.
I don’t like problems I can’t solve. If you come to me with a problem, I will offer you a solution. If I can’t solve the problem, I don’t want to hear about it.
This is all evidence of white supremacy at work in my privilege.
I wanted to participate in an Amplify Black Voices book challenge this month until I realized I’d only read 24 books by Black authors in the past 2.5 years (total of 260 books read).
I’m currently reading Patsy by Nicole Y. Dennis-Benn. Patsy is a Jamaican woman who moves to New York City to be reunited with her childhood/teenage friend/lover. I want Patsy to make better choices. I want her to stand up for herself and to not give in to what is expected of her. I want her to think of her daughter.
Basically, I want Patsy to have a better life than is possible for her in her current circumstances (I’m about half way through the book) and I find myself blaming her for her situation.
This is me checking my privilege. What is easy for me, what was handed to me, is not easy for a Black female immigrant. My experience is not universal. My experience is not universal. My experience is not universal.
When George Floyd was murdered and the protests started I told my roommate that it just makes me feel sad and I don’t want to feel sad because I can’t do anything about it. I feel helpless and powerless in the face of white supermacy.
She said something like, “You can feel sad with no purpose.”
Glennon Doyle posts morning meeting videos on her social media every week. This week she shared about her sexuality and some things she’s been learning as a gay person with privilege. She shared about how she and her wife have different reactions when faced with discrimination.
She said, “Abby is not surprised when she’s discriminated against.”
I had to pause the video to sob. The middle of my chest still hurts. My heart is broken.
All of a sudden all that I had been reading in novels and poems and social media posts, all of the sadness for these entire communities of people who have been struggling and grieving and fighting for equality that I had been shoving down and burying underneath my preferences and privilege could no longer be shoved down.
I want to live in a world where EVERYONE is surprised by discrimination. Discrimination should shock and disgust all of us, whether it is our own or someone else’s.*
Kanye West tweeted that he is going to run for president. Hundreds of people went unmasked to beaches over the weekend. I’m so sad.
Marginalized communities have no time for my sadness and I acknowledge that. My sadness doesn’t fix anybody’s problems. But it does strengthen my fight.
The other day at the end of a Yoga with Adriene video she invited us to finish the sentence, “I choose…” The first word to come to my mind was, “joy,” but I knew I wanted to slap that in there because that one comes easily to me. So I catalogued “joy” and let whatever word wanted to rise up to finish the sentence. “I choose….”
And what came to mind is change. I choose change. Even though it’s hard and uncomfortable and means I cannot live in my Netflix and snacks and podcasts cocoon of white, middle class, cisgender, able bodied, heterosexuality. I choose change even though the first step is often grief.
The United States is broken. Our justice system and our political system – they are broken. And that is really sad. I choose to be a part of the change and I choose to do that by powerfully stepping into the role that only I can do, both online and offline.
*It’s not lost on me that the final acknowledgment of my sadness was inspired by a white woman. I am a work in progress and am diversifying the voices I listen to. I also relate to some people more than others, like white women, because I am one.